Treating prostate cancer with estrogen patches not only reduces male hormone levels but also prevents bone loss by improving bone mineral density (BMD), according to the results of a recent study published in the Journal of Urology. The conventional method of treating prostate cancer is lowering androgen levels, but this method can lead to a decrease in BMD and acceleration of osteoporosis. In the study, 20 men with advanced prostate cancer, who had not been treated with androgen deprivation, used 2 transdermal estradiol patches on their shoulders, changing them 2 to 3 times a week.
After 1 year, average BMD increased by 3.6% in the spine and 1.9% in the hip, with 4 of 12 areas of bone reduction showing some improvement. In addition to the increased BMD, prostate-specific antigen levels were reduced by an average of 95%?comparable to traditional therapy. The results of this study and other similar studies justify the need for large, randomized studies of the efficacy of estrogen patches for the treatment of prostate cancer. Study author Dr. Paul D. Abel of the Imperial College and Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust in London added that the estrogen patch "is about 10% the cost of conventional therapy alone, and correspondingly even cheaper than combination therapy."
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.